‘Kaala,’ first Indian film in Saudi cinemas, gimmicky at best

Indian fans take pictures as they celebrate next to a poster of Bollywood star Rajinikanth outside a cinema on the first day of release of his new Tamil-language film ‘Kaala,’ in Chennai on June 7, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 17 June 2018
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‘Kaala,’ first Indian film in Saudi cinemas, gimmicky at best

  • Rajinikanth remains a man who has to fall back on gimmicks
  • At 167 minutes, the film could have been liberally trimmed as the story has little novelty on offer

CHENNAI: A film with Tamil actor Rajinikanth is a like a carnival, but unlike a conventional one, there is more reverence here than just fun. The superstar, who is respectfully addressed as “thalaivar,” or chief, is not just an icon, but a phenomenon. Last week, Pa Ranjith-helmed, Rajinikanth-starrer “Kaala” became the first Indian film to open in newly re-launched Saudi cinemas — it sees Rajinikanth appear as an underworld don called Karikaalan.

Invariably dressed in a black dhoti and a black shirt, Kaala is not evil personified — as the color is often meant to denote – but goodness glorified. Playing godfather to his tribe of Tamils in Dharavi, the second largest slum in the world after one in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro, he is provoked into a battle when a huge corporate, headed by a gangster-turned-minister Hari Dada (played by Nana Patekar), tries to demolish Dharavi and evict hundreds of its inhabitants.

In the war that ensues between Karikaalan and Hari, the star’s wife, Selvi (played by Eswari Rao) and eldest son, are killed, leaving a heartbroken husband and father, who does not choose a path of revenge, but merely carries on as a good Samaritan.

At 167 minutes, the film could have been liberally trimmed as the story has little novelty on offer. The movie follows a beaten track that is strewn with dead bodies and covered with blood and gore. A confrontation between the protagonist and Hari takes on various hues, but ends up presenting little that can be revelatory or surprising.

Rajinikanth remains a man who has to fall back on gimmicks (earlier it was flicking a cigarette in the air and catching it between his lips, and this time it is playing with his dark glasses) to keep his fans interested.

But, yes, if the film falls rather flat because its lead actor looks tired — he is 67-years-old — and is unable to think of different characters (unlike Bollywood’s Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor, who have given themselves a complete image makeover). Fine pieces of acting by Patekar infuse sparks of excellence into the narrative, however.

Unless Rajinikanth steps away from the gimmicks to take on more substantial roles, his movies may continue to be less than impressive.


Hawking’s final book offers brief answers to big questions

Updated 15 October 2018
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Hawking’s final book offers brief answers to big questions

  • Hawking was forever being asked the same things and started work on “Brief Answers to the Big Questions” last year before he died
  • “He was regularly asked a set of questions,” his daughter Lucy Hawking said

LONDON: Stephen Hawking’s final work, which tackles issues from the existence of God to the potential for time travel, was launched on Monday by his children, who helped complete the book after the British astrophysics giant’s death.
Hawking was forever being asked the same things and started work on “Brief Answers to the Big Questions” last year — but did not finish it before he died in March, aged 76.
It has been completed by the theoretical physicist’s family and academic colleagues, with material drawn from his vast personal archive.
“He was regularly asked a set of questions,” his daughter Lucy Hawking said at the Science Museum in London.
The book was an attempt to “bring together the most definitive, clearest, most authentic answers that he gave.
“We all just wish he has here to see it.”
Hawking, who was wheelchair bound due to motor neurone disease, dedicated his life’s work to unraveling the mysteries of the universe.
The cosmologist was propelled to stardom by his 1988 book “A Brief History of Time,” an unlikely worldwide bestseller.
It won over fans from far beyond the rarefied world of astrophysics and prompted people into asking the mastermind his thoughts on broader topics, answered in his final work.

The 10 questions Hawking tackles are:
-- Is there a God?
-- How did it all begin?
-- What is inside a black hole?
-- Can we predict the future?
-- Is time travel possible?
-- Will we survive on Earth?
-- Is there other intelligent life in the universe?
-- Should we colonize space?
-- Will artificial intelligence outsmart us?
-- How do we shape the future?


In his book, Hawking says humans have no option but to leave Earth, risking being “annihilated” if they do not.
He says computers will overtake humans in intelligence during the next 100 years, but “we will need to ensure that the computers have goals aligned with ours.”
Hawking says the human race had to improve its mental and physical qualities, but a genetically-modified race of superhumans, say with greater memory and disease resistance, would imperil the others.
He says that by the time people realize what is happening with climate change, it may be too late.
Hawking says the simplest explanation is that God does not exist and there is no reliable evidence for an afterlife, though people could live on through their influence and genes.
He says that in the next 50 years, we will come to understand how life began and possibly discover whether life exists elsewhere in the universe.
“He was deeply worried that at a time when the challenges are global, we were becoming increasingly local in our thinking,” Lucy Hawking said.
“It’s a call to unity, to humanity, to bring ourselves back together and really face up to the challenges in front of us.”
In his final academic paper, Hawking shed new light on black holes and the information paradox, with new work calculating the entropy of black holes.
Turned into an animation narrated by Hawking’s artificial voice, it was shown at the book launch.
“It was very emotional. I turned away because I had tears forming,” Lucy Hawking told AFP on hearing her father’s voice again.
“It feels sometimes like he’s still here because we talk about him and hear his voice — and then we have the reminder that he’s left us.”